No. 14 • 2020-08-12

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Civil Dialog

During the pandemic, we have become even more reliant upon (addicted to?) social media for, well… socializing. It’s nice to still connect with friends & family and stories of interest, but we know it’s also a source of tremendous angst, frustration, and rage-induced thumb sprains. Let’s face it, the notion of a civil conversation online has become somewhat of an oxymoron. 

Twitter is sometimes called a “public square”, but what if your tweets were actually writ large, projected into the physical Public Square?  Might that facilitate more productive conversations about social issues and challenges, regional and national concerns, and current events? That’s the premise behind the new project, Civil Dialog, created by my friend and colleague Dr. Frank Lee, Director of the Entrepreneurial Game Studio at the ExCITe Center, which premieres this evening through the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

You may be familiar with Prof. Lee’s previous work in putting classic games Pong and Tetris on Philadelphia’s Cira Centre skyscraper, creating the world’s largest video game display. A follow-up effort, Skyscraper Games, partnered with local schoolteachers to teach coding to middle schoolers, premiering their new game creations on the Cira Centre. His work integrating creativity, technology, education, and civic engagement embodies everything we aspire to at ExCITe.

Civil Dialog will display tweets on select topics in an animated, large-scale projection for 4 consecutive nights (9-10:30pm) on the western side of Nesbitt Hall at 33th and Market Streets on Drexel’s campus. Dr. Lee’s team of students and technologists developed a custom system and visual presentation to highlight visibility and active discussion for nearby viewers and those watching online. The intention is to start a conversation where local residents and remote participants can develop empathetic views and become co-creators of public spaces both virtual and physical on Drexel’s campus.

Topics have been curated by students from our Pennoni Honors College, whose recent panel events have been facilitating community discussions on challenging issues facing our nation: sexism in politics, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, gentrification and systemic racism. The project team will present discussion prompts and surveys and moderate the ongoing Twitter thread.

Though it was conceived before the pandemic, I believe the project is another great example of Creating at a Distance. All are welcome to participate: Follow the @Civil_Dialog Twitter account and reply to prompts starting this evening (Wed 8/12 through Sat 8/15). If you can’t view the building projection directly, you can watch a video stream via Twitch and Periscope (by following on Twitter). I look forward to conversing with you (at a distance)!

Next week is my monthly break to focus on other projects, but look out for our ExCITe Center monthly mailing. Creating at a Distance will return in two weeks, August 26.

(Socially) Distant Creations

  • A Killer Party: A Murder Mystery Musical [Music: Jason Howland, Lyrics: Nathan Tysen] A new digital musical experiment for the isolation era with a stellar cast of Broadway veterans. All 9 short episodes to be released this month ($12.99 for the full season).
  • Hamilton Mask-Up Parody Medley [The Holderness Family] I am not throwing away this… mask! Right up my alley, as I am passionate about Hamilton and mask wearing.
  • Christopher Jackson: Live From the West Side [Kimmel Center] Hamilton nod #2… An online benefit performance by the original George Washington (Sat. 8/15 at 8pm, donation required). Proceeds will benefit the Kimmel Cultural Campus Road to Reopening Relief Fund.
  • And So It Goes [Stay At Home Choir with The King’s Singers] Beautiful rendition of a Billy Joel classic. I signed up to join the next Stay at Home Choir project.
  • Parallax Podcast [featured in Issue No. 1 of this newsletter] has been killing it with recent guests James Johnson-Piett, Omar Woodard, Keira Smalls, and Shannon Morales. Worth checking out, if you’re not already a subscriber!

What I’m creating

I can’t really take credit for this one, but one of my former PhD students, David Rosen, recently had his dissertation research on creativity and music improvisation highlighted in this fantastic video produced by the National Science Foundation. Also check out the startup he’s founded, Secret Chord Laboratories, which includes some familiar faces from our research lab!